If you have to travel a long distance to school or a summer job, an electric bike could be the thing that makes it easier, allowing you to venture a bit further afield before you are old enough to get a motorbike or drive a car.
Some types of electric bikes are exempt from registration and can be ridden on the road and in dedicated cycle lanes like a normal bike. You don’t need a licence to ride one, but you must wear an approved bike helmet and follow the road rules. There are two kinds, electric power-assisted pedal cycles and pedalecs.
Electric power-assisted bicycles
These are like a normal bike with pedals but with an electric motor controlled by a throttle. The bike can be ridden under electric power alone. The motor must not exceed 200 watts. This will usually be good enough for 20-25kph top speed, depending on your weight and the weight of the bike.
You can purchase electric bikes with considerably more power, such as this Stealth, or you can make your own from readily available parts such as hub motors, but you will not be permitted to ride them on the street.
A pedalec is a power-assisted bike where the engine will only work by itself at low speed (less than 6kph), and cuts out above 25kph. In between 6-25kph the motor will only activate if the rider pedals.
Pedalecs must comply with European Standard EN 15194-2009 or EN 15194:2009+A1:2009 Cycles – Electrically powered assisted cycles – EPAC bicycles.
To comply with this directive, the motor must not exceed 250 watts at the wheel. The rider must pedal the cycle to start it (unless a low speed boost is available), and the rider must be completely powering the bike using leg power or gravity at speeds above 25kph. The motor must cut out if the rider stops pedalling.
Approved pedalecs will have a manufacturer’s plate certifying that it complies with EN 15194 and including the manufacturer’s name, the motor’s cut-off speed in kph and the continuous rated power in watts.
250W is not a great deal – an elite cyclist can usually generate 5W per kilogram of body weight for an hour, meaning for men, somewhere around 350W. They can peak for short distances at 500W or more. This is good enough for them to propel their bikes at up to 80kph for short distances using leg power alone.
You are not allowed to ride on the road or public places on a petrol-powered bicycle, motorised foot scooters, mini bikes, monkey bikes, motorised human transporters and self-balancing unicycles, and motorised skateboards.
This article only covers New South Wales rules. Other states may have age limits for electric powered bikes.